Keystone Ski Resort in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains not only offers downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, tubing, ice skating, and other snowy activities but it’s also a foodie’s paradise! My family’s visit happened to coincide with the annual Keystone Winter Culinary Festival, which offers both romantic and family-friendly events. Plus mountaintop dining, a Nordic Soup Buffet, and an unforgettable Sleigh Ride Dinner make dining an adventure at Keystone.
A welcome box of chocolates by renowned Chef Ned Archibald
My husband and I ducked out one evening without the kids to attend the Keystone Winter Culinary Festival’s Grand Tasting. We’ve been married for almost ten years so we’ve been on a lot of dates, but none quite like this. First we boarded the gondola and were given a wool blanket to warm our laps for our ride to the top of the mountain. Then, we boarded yet a second gondola to carry us to the next mountain.
Glasses of champagne greeted us at North Peak’s Outpost. Stations offered up delicious samplings of dishes from the best restaurants at Keystone, like Alpenglow Stube’s arctic char with fines herbes spatzle, tomato raisins, chaterelles, and preserved lemon beurre blanc. Each item was accompanied by a wine pairing, in this case, a Sebastiani Chardonnay from California.
Champagne greeting at Keystone Winter Culinary Festival’s Grand Tasting
Willy Wonka’s wildest fantasy was outdone by the wonderland of chocolates and desserts by Chef Ned Archibald. I literally have a recurring dream where I am in line at a buffet resplendent with delicious-looking sweets, but try as I might, I can’t get a single taste. My dream came true at this event, only this time I tasted almost everything on display! There were mini cornets filled with white chocolate cream and topped with apricot candies, lemon meringue cookie sandwiches, homemade marshmallows, intricately decorated chocolates of every variety, and a chocolate fountain surrounded by strawberries and other dip-able fruits and goodies.
After our fill of wine, savory treats, and more dessert than should ever be consumed in one night, we re-boarded the gondola for our mountain descent. Riding the gondolas during the bright white of day – surrounded by a flurry of people and thoughts of skiing the next slope - is quite different from snuggling up with your honey and enjoying a quiet journey, soaring through the air over a moonlit winter landscape.
Alpenglow Stube’s sampling of arctic char
Mountaintop Dining Year-Round
Even if you are not able to visit during the culinary festival, you can dine at nearly 12,000-feet. The AAA four-star Alpenglowe Stube offers contemporary cuisine with a Bavarian accent. Come for a multicourse dinner, Alpine Lunch Buffet, or brunch. A four-course fondue dinner is available at Der Fondue Chessel, complete with strolling musicians playing Bavarian music.
My daughter, Karissa, concentrating on chopping pineapple in her Kids in the Kitchen Cooking Class
Kids in the Kitchen Cooking Class
My kindergartner and I attended a Kids in the Kitchen Cooking Class as part of the culinary festival. Taught by Sticky Fingers Cooking, my daughter and a dozen or so other kids learned about the textures, scents, and tastes of various ingredients as they helped to create a fruit salsa. They felt the fuzzy kiwi, chopped the soft avocado, squeezed the tangy limes, and ground the pepper with a mill. As the kids pulled cilantro leaves from their stalks, the friendly young instructors, Chef Christina and Chef Brennan, encouraged the children to taste a bit of the herb. Much to my surprise, many of them did (including my daughter)!
Once assembled, the kids were given a handful of tortilla chips and a serving of the salsa. All of the kids except one gobbled up this unusual concoction, which many likely would have refused to taste had they not participated in its creation. A couple of weeks after our trip, my daughter and I made this delicious salsa at home. What a fun way to get kids interested in trying new, healthy foods!
The Nordic Soup Buffet is a wonderful way to warm up after snow-time fun
Nordic Soup Buffet
After a morning of tubing as a family, we warmed up with steaming bowls of all-you-can-eat soups at the Nordic Soup Bistro at Keystone’s Nordic Center. Three choices are offered daily; we had lobster bisque, beef stew, and ginger carrot. Soups are served with fresh-baked breads and butter. Children might prefer the only other meal item on the menu – hot dogs. Reward yourself for your winter work-out with a cup of hot chocolate topped with whipped cream!
Keystone’s Sleigh Ride Dinner is an unforgettable experience
Sleigh Ride Dinner
The memory I keep reliving from our trip was when my family glided across the snow in a horse drawn sleigh to the original Keystone homestead for a Sleigh Rider Dinner. The evening was made even more special by dining with my friend, Laurie Cooper, a Colorado resident and author of the Guessing All The Way blog. Our friendship started with parasailing together in Cabo San Lucas during a mom blogger press trip. This special meal with our families was a completely different, equally memorable experience together.
Carafes of hot cocoa, covered pots filled with a hearty stew, and rolls with honey butter were waiting on our table when we arrived. Adults and children can choose steak, chicken, or salmon as a main course. Save room for a generous slab of apple pie topped with vanilla ice cream. Adults can opt for a shot of peppermint schnapps included in the price of dinner; I dropped mine into my hot chocolate for an added treat!
The guitarist serenading my family with Puff the Magic Dragon, per my daughter’s request
A guitarist/singer entertained the rows of tables with renditions of familiar country and folk songs. Laurie’s little boy and mine zipped Thomas the Tank Engine trains underneath our table while my daughter made THREE cards for the guitarist. Meanwhile Laurie’s toddler daughter was perched on her mama’s lap throughout our meal. Before re-boarding the sleighs for our return trip, the guitarist got the whole crowd singing John Denver’s Country Roads.
Cuddling with my family under woolen blankets, staring at the outline of towering pines in a landscape of white turned icy blue by the nighttime sky- I wanted to store that evening in a snowglobe so I could take it out long from now, shake it up and watch the frosty flakes float down upon my happy family. Instead I kissed my sweet babies – trying to imprint the feel of my lips against their rosey, chubby cheeks as the sleigh lulled them to sleep.
Join in the Fun & Enjoy Good Food!
You may have missed this year’s Winter Culinary Festival at Keystone Resort, but it’s not too late to attend the annual Taste of Vail Culinary Festival at sister property, Vail Resort in April. Sign up for the Taste of Vail Package for $775 per person, which includes three nights lodging, dinner at Terra Bistro, and tickets to the Après Ski Lamb Cook-off, Mountaintop Wine Tasting and Picnic, and Grand Tasting.
What vacation meal have you experienced that was not only tasty, but also a memorable adventure? Let us know in the comments!
A Note from The Travel Mama: Thank you to Keystone Resort for hosting my family for this snow-filled weekend of fun, adventure, and great food.